Scott H Young

The 6 Keys for Writing a Kick-Ass To-Do List


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Are you driven to get your to-do list done? Or do you get feelings of dread just from looking at it? Motivation is critical for getting things done. But if you don’t write to-do lists properly, even exciting projects will only inspire procrastination.

Here are some suggestions for writing a to-do list that will make you want to get moving and kick ass, instead of just take another coffee break:

1) Follow the Rule of Seven

Don’t write a to-do list that has more than seven items. If it feels like you have too many tasks to accomplish, it will feel less inspiring to get anything done. Instead, write smaller lists and organize groups so you only have to check lists with less than seven items. Short lists motivate.

Writing smaller lists also helps with prioritizing. When you only have five or six items to glance over, you can quickly assess what needs to be done first and which is most important. When facing lists of over a dozen items, you lose the ability to sort priorities.

If your list is too long, try grouping different tasks into categories. Then make smaller sub-lists with those points. This not only adds clarity, but it helps you mentally divide up how the work will be accomplished.

2) Use the Power of a Time Budget

Few organizations would spend money without a budget. Budgets help control the flow of money so it isn’t wasted. But what about a budget on your time? Does your to-do list budget time?

Deadlines function as a budget on your time. They point out the maximum amount of time that can be spent to accomplish a task. Placing deadlines on entire lists or particular items within a to-do list can kick you into gear.

I always maintain a daily goals list, as well as longer goals for my projects. By keeping a daily goals list, you can budget out which portions of your to-do tasks need to be done today. This is the best method I know of to stay focused on those important, non-urgent tasks that often get missed.

3) Connect Tasks to Your Vision

Why are you doing the task in the first place? Although it might be obvious what the end purpose of a task is, everyone needs reminders. Having a reminder of the goal each task represents can give them the same level of motivation.

I’m working on a new book for this site, which involves a lot of writing. Writing down a task to “Write 2000 words” on my daily goals isn’t nearly as inspiring until I connect it with the final goal of having a finished book, helping people with the information it provides and moving one step closer to earning an income from this site full-time.

If your to-do list consistently fails to inspire you, write out how each task will aid your goal. It can be easy to lose sight of the big picture.

4) Reward Yourself

What is more motivating? Finishing a hard day of work with some well-timed rest and relaxation–OR–knowing you’ll have another night of poor sleep as you drill through your project.

When possible, plan your to-do list so you accomplish all major tasks early. Then when you are done you can have the rest of the day or week off to relax. If you reward work achieved with more work, you’ll set yourself up to procrastinate. Don’t spread work out; get it done early so you can party (or sleep) afterwards.

5) Don’t Forget About It

If your to-do list doesn’t demand attention, it will be forgotten. Forgotten to-do lists can’t motivate. If you want a motivating to-do list, make it one you can check often and rests firmly in your mind until you complete it.

Here are some tips for creating an unforgettable to-do list:

  • Write it on a piece of paper you always keep attached to your desk.
  • List all major tasks as only 1-3 words.
  • Write each of your Most Important Tasks on a Post It and attach them to your computer screen.
  • Keep it in your pocket.
  • Follow the Rule of Seven.

6) Motivate From Within

Although it’s been said many times before, it deserves repeating: if your work doesn’t inspire you, no amount of tricks will drive you to finish your to-do list. It can be easy to lose sight of your big goals and even the best jobs need a boost from time to time. But tricks can’t make up for actually liking your job.

If your to-do list creates chronic pain, add one more item before crossing the rest off the list: find a new career.


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5 Responses to “The 6 Keys for Writing a Kick-Ass To-Do List”

  1. […] The 6 Keys for Writing a Kick-Ass To-Do List, by Scott at Scott Young. […]

  2. Scott:

    This is such a great post. It helped me get a handle on my todo lists.

    I’m going to mention it in an upcoming blog post.

    I love it!

    Craig

  3. […] as early as you can and get writing your todo lists.  It’s no good giving 24 hours to random work.  Have a plan that focuses your mind and […]

  4. […] with a specific number. Since reading a post by Scott H Young entitled The Six Keys for Writing a Kick-ass To-Do List, I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot. He suggests that you keep your lists at no more […]

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